PDM turns up heat on electoral body

Leaders fire broadsides at PM at Islamabad power show


Khalid Mehmood/Waqas Ahmed January 19, 2021
SCREENGRAB

ISLAMABAD:

The opposition Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) held its major power show outside the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) on Tuesday to press for its demand for an early outcome of the foreign funding case filed against the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) in 2014.

Addressing the rally, the PDM leaders, including Maulana Fazlur Rehman, Maryam Nawaz, Mehmood Achakzai, Aftab Sherpao, Owais Noorani, Raja Pervez Ashraf and others delivered hard-hitting speeches in which they particularly made Prime Minister Imran Khan a target of their trenchant criticism.

The leaders from the 11-party opposition alliance launched personal attacks on the prime minister accusing him of being “an agent of the Jews” who received funds from Israel and India. They repeatedly mocked the prime ministers with monikers like “Obedient Khan and U-Turn Khan” in their speeches.

The leaders also came down hard on the ECP, accusing it of being “complicit” in delaying its ruling in the case and reminded the election supervisor of its constitutional duty of ensuring “respect for the vote of the people”. They alleged that Imran used to call others thieves, but he himself turned out to be a thief.

“Delay in foreign funding case decision is the biggest fraud in the country’s history,” declared Maryam Nawaz, as the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) vice president addressed a charged crowd, while firing a broadside against Imran.

Similarly, Fazl, the PDM president and the chief of his own faction of the Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam (JUI-F), charged that Prime Minister Imran was a “Jewish agent and received help from there” and alleged that Imran contested elections with Israeli and Indian funds.

Addressing the rally, Maryam Nawaz demanded an immediate decision of the ECP in the case and making details of the PTI’s foreign funding public. “Today, we have gathered outside the Election Commission to remind it of its constitutional responsibilities,” she said.

Talking about PTI’s foreign funding, she alleged that Imran Khan received huge funds from India and Israel to his “secret accounts”. The money, she added, came illegally through Hundi, which Imran Khan used in conspiracies against an elected government.

Read More: PML-N, PTI bicker over foreign funding case

Referring to a PTI statement that it collected funds through its agents, the PML-N leader said: “Imran Khan, tell us who are those agents, covering up for you.” She lampooned the prime minister by recalling his earlier statement, saying if one was not a thief, why he was afraid of search.

The foreign funding case was filed in November 2014 but it was still pending, Maryam Nawaz said. On the other hand, she continued, the cases against former prime minister Nawaz Sharif were concluded within days, even with two hearings in a single day.

In the foreign funding case, Maryam said the ECP conducted only 70 hearings in the last six years. During that period, she added, Imran tried 30 times to adjourn the case. She added the PTI moved the high court six times to stop the Election Commission from hearing the case or forming scrutiny committee.

“Imran Khan tried to block the proceedings at least 24 times and four times requested that the proceedings be kept secret,” Maryam claimed, and asked: “Why they tried to stop the trial 30 times if they did not commit any crime.”

Continuing, she said that when the investigations revealed “a long list of crimes” the scrutiny committee was “told to go soft against the PTI”. For the past three years, the scrutiny committee had been investigating the case even though the facts were very clear.

She said that changing statements and taking U-turns was a daily routine for Imran. “He not only changed statements, but also changed eight lawyers, but despite changing lawyers, he could not hide his theft.” The State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) had seized 23 secret accounts of Imran, she alleged.

Speaking next, Fazl said that the decision in the foreign funding case had been delayed for six years and because of the incompetent government the country was suffering economic crisis and losing friends on diplomatic front.

Fazl also accused the government of making a deal on Kashmir at the behest of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi. “So, there will be a big demonstration on February 5 [the Kashmir Solidarity Day] against selling Kashmir,” the PDM president said.

“We have to hold demonstrations on February 5 in every district headquarters. And in Rawalpindi [we] will hold a huge demonstration at Liaquat Bagh. “We will meet on February 5,” the JUI-F chief told the rally. He added that he would continue his struggle till “the funeral of the government”.

Earlier, Pashtunkhwa Milli Awami Party (PkMAP) chief Mehmood Achakzai said the poor should not be pressed so hard that riots or looting of shops and government stores broke out. “I demand of the Muftis to issue edict that if there is hunger, the looting government grain stores is permissible.”

Central Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) leader and former prime minister Raja Pervez Ashraf said that the people had come before the ECP to ask why the foreign funding case had not been decided in seven years. He alleged that the money from Jews and Hindus was used to create political instability.

Qaumi Watan Party (QWP) chief Aftab Ahmad Khan Sherpao said that the election was rigged two and a half years ago, while the foreign funding was continuing for six years. “We will never accept this injustice,” he added.

Jamiat Ulema-e-Pakistan (JUP) chief Owais Noorani said that people had come to the ECP to demand accountability and justice. He accused the prime minister of promoting the policies of the enemies of Pakistan.

Ameer Haider Hoti, a senior leader of the Awami National Party (ANP) told the rally that the Election Commission suspended membership of 154 lawmakers for not submitting details of assets but no action had been taken against “the selected for not submitting details of funding, for past six years”.

Jamiat-e-Ahl-e-Hadis chief Sajid Mir said that according to the election laws, foreign funding could not be taken. But the so-called ruling party received funding from enemies such as Israel and India. National Party leader Mir Kabir said that Election Commission had become controversial after the 2018 elections.

Free hand

Earlier, the government kept its promise of giving a free hand to the opposition alliance to bring out the rally. Because of the processions, there was heavy traffic on Murree Road but the PDM workers along with the city wardens help maintain the traffic flow.

The day progressed without any incident as no obstruction was put up at any place in Rawalpindi and Islamabad. The Rawalpindi police deployed more than 350 security personnel for the rally. During the processions, some enthusiast workers, riding motorcycles, were seen pulling one-wheeling.

For the rally, the PML-N has set up a reception camp near Faizabad in Rawalpindi and another one in Islamabad. The JUI-F workers were told to gather at the Liaquat Bagh, while the PML-N workers gathered in front of Allama Iqbal Park.

Senior PML-N leader Sajjad Khan hosted a grand breakfast at the Committee Chowk for the leaders and workers of the party. Later, the main procession led by PML-N Punjab President Rana Sanaullah, and other leaders, including Maryam Aurangzeb, Uzma Bukhari, Talal Chaudhry, left for Islamabad.

PPP chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari did not attend the opposition alliance’s power show. However, the party was represented at the rally by Raja Pervez Sharif. During the day, the PPP workers were nowhere to be seen among the convoys entering Islamabad from Rawalpindi.

(With additional reporting by Saqib Virk, Rizwan Ghilzai, Imran Asghar and Saleh Mughal)

 

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